Ardhanarishvara

Since 2020, I started a project called Ardhanarishvara to create a body of images that questions the notion of perfect union and the loss.

Since 2020, I started a project called Ardhanarishvara in Kerala, South India. With a photographic approach rooted in the experience of reality, since then i have been traveling to different states in order to create a body of images that questions the notion of perfect union and the loss.


In India, more than ten million couples get married every year. Of these, only a quarter are unions based on love. Whether it is a rite of passage to adulthood or an alliance between two families, marriage is the central event in everyone's life. An event that does not only involve the bride and groom. And would stay the same for seven lifes time for the hindu believe.

While traditions may vary by region or religion, the search for a marriage partner by parents in all communities has one thing in common and remains the same:

Finding their child's mirror-partner.

Traditionally, the bride and groom must belong to the same caste and practice the same religion. They must have the same level of education. Similar physical characteristics and lifestyle are also sought after.

For Hindus, in addition to this, the future spouses must also have a certified astral compatibility by an astrologer.

In the marriage market, women have their best chances up to the age of 26, while men have their best chances up to 29. After these ages, it becomes difficult to find a partner.

This quest for marriage is in fact a countdown for young people, who often try to put aside their teenage loves in order to honor their parents' wishes.

Is there no union without pain?

Ardhanarishvara, in Hindu mythology, is one of the forms of Shiva in which he appears with his wife Pārvatī united in one body. This half-male and half-female form unites their two cosmic and inseparable forces.

Like the story of the perfect union of Shiva and Pārvatī, tragically separated at first, Indian mythology and literature tells many love stories that have similar contours: union, separation, and reunion. A pattern that the film industry uses today in stories that the contemporary young audiences lap it up and which reflected a large number of lives.

I travel and settle temporarily and successively in several Indian states following for itinerary the Shakti Peethas and photograph their surroundings and inhabitants. They are sacred places of the feminin energy whose implantation is considered to correspond to the fall of the different parts of the inert body of the goddess Satī, first wife of Shiva and previous incarnation of Pārvatī, cutted by Brahmā following the goddess self-immolation caused by the fact her parents were disapproving her union with Shiva.

Started by photographing in my close circle in the south of India, I extend my subject to the encounters I make in the course of the visited regions.

The Indian identity is not unique but composed of different communities with cultural, religious and economic differences. I seek to create a universal narrative that includes all these identities.

By following these different places scattered all over India, symbols of the loss of the loved one, I attempt a broad contemporary representation of the Union in India.

I decided to photograph with a digital camera and flashes to highlight a representation of a 21st century India where technology is omnipresent and also has its own part in the search for union today.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - The heart dealer, 2022
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The heart dealer, 2022

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Steel bird, 2020
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Steel bird, 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - The girls' side
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The girls' side

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Girls surrounded by boys, 2020
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Girls surrounded by boys, 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - The boys' side
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The boys' side

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Through the wire, 2022
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Through the wire, 2022

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Love holding back love, 2022
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Love holding back love, 2022

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Memory of a teenage romance, 2020
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Memory of a teenage romance, 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - 500g of Haldi, 2020
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500g of Haldi, 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - All angels, 2022
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All angels, 2022

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Scrolling through details, 2020
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Scrolling through details, 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - All recorded, 2022
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All recorded, 2022

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - The chosen one, 2020
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The chosen one, 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Power man, 2022
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Power man, 2022

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - The astrologer , 2020
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The astrologer , 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Stepping through, 2022
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Stepping through, 2022

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Malayali bride, 2020
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Malayali bride, 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - The immersion, 2020
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The immersion, 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Ardhanarishvara on bed, 2020
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Ardhanarishvara on bed, 2020

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - The love birds float, 2020
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The love birds float, 2020

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